Under fire for accusations of stolen valor, U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls is doubling down on defending his military record by blaming “the establishment” forces seeking to discredit him.

Nehls, R-Richmond, has been under intense scrutiny over his display of a combat service badge that the Army revoked and removed from his service record last year.

Nehls, who represents a large swath of suburbs southwest of Houston, released what he called a “final written comment” on the controversy Tuesday afternoon. Nehls did not dispute that his Combat Infantryman Badge (CIB) had been revoked by the Army, but offered no explanation for why he continued to wear it until as recently as this month.

The congressman instead accused his critics of using the military to undermine him for his hardline conservative views. Nehls is a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus.

“Unfortunately for me, as an America First Patriot and an outspoken member of Congress, there are no lengths to which the establishment won’t go to discredit me, including my CIB, which I was awarded over 14 years ago,” Nehls said in his Tuesday statement. “Nothing more needs to be said.”

On Wednesday, Nehls had apparently stopped wearing the badge.

“Because you guys are vultures,” he told reporters, according to NOTUS, a nonprofit newsroom. “I know what I’ve done, and I certainly don’t have to justify myself to you guys. You were probably in middle school when I was over there. So I don’t have to justify myself to you in any form or fashion. But I know the truth. And now that I don’t wear that, what are you going to talk to me about?”

Nehls served in the Army from 1988 to 2008, first with the Wisconsin National Guard and then in the Army Reserve. During his two deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Nehls served in the civil affairs branch, the Army confirmed to the Washington outlet NOTUS. The Combat Infantryman Badge was apparently incorrectly awarded for his tour in Afghanistan in 2008.

Only infantrymen or Special Forces soldiers who engaged in active combat are eligible for the Combat Infantryman Badge.

In his Tuesday statement, Nehls appeared incredulous over the Army’s move to rescind his badge, even as he acknowledged that it occurred. Nehls previously argued in a letter to the Army’s human resources command that the division he had been a part of was indeed a combat unit.

“In 2023, 14 years after my retirement, suddenly, the Department of the Army rescinded my CIB. According to my correspondence I received from the Department of the Army, 142,596 CIBs have been awarded over the past 20 years. Of these, only 47 CIBs have been rescinded. So, let me get this straight, the Department of the Army says that the 101st Airborne Division has been 99.968% correct in awarding the CIB over the past two decades?” he said.

The issue was brought to light in May after a CBS News investigation showed discrepancies between the congressman’s own representations of his military career and his records held by the Pentagon. Reviews of Nehls’ career conducted by the Army found two separate discrepancies.

In addition to the revoked Combat Infantryman Badge the Army also told CBS that Nehls’ records indicate he received only one Bronze Star medal, despite his claiming to have been awarded two. Nehls posted two certificates and two forms on social media earlier this month.

Bronze Stars are awarded to any individual based on any heroic achievement in a combat setting, whether they were serving in a combat or civilian role.

Some of Nehl’s House Republican colleagues have since criticized him for his continued display of the badge, with fellow Texas Rep. Wesley Hunt of Houston, a former Army officer, telling a NOTUS reporter: “That’s ridiculous. That’s stolen valor.”

Before being elected in 2020, Nehls was the sheriff of Fort Bend County. He is separately facing a probe by a House ethics panel into potential campaign finance violations.

U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls defends military record amid badge scandal was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Military Times has edited the original headline.

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